December 19, 2014

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Petrak on Browns: Taking Thomas over Peterson makes sense

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has a league-leading 1,081 rushing yards. He ran for an NFL-record 296 on Nov. 4, breaking Jamal Lewis` mark by a yard. He`s 6-foot-1, 217 pounds and runs with power and speed.
The Browns could`ve had Peterson on draft day, but elected to take left tackle Joe Thomas with the third pick. They made the right decision.
After nine games, Thomas looks like the real deal – and that`s all that matters. He made Pro Football Weekly`s midseason All-Pro team and hasn`t allowed a sack since the opener.
No matter how good Peterson, who slipped to No. 7, becomes for Minnesota, a big-time left tackle is always the better choice than a big-time running back.
The reason is shelf-life. Running backs take such a pounding, most are either done or a shadow of themselves after five or six years. The best left tackles are effective for 12 years.
Peterson also entered the draft with an injury history at Oklahoma and will miss the next 2-4 weeks after spraining a knee ligament. That doesn`t mean he isn`t valuable or worthy of a top pick, but he brought risk.
The Browns desperately needed a left tackle, and it looks like they found a good one.
That trumps an exciting running back any day, any draft.

BLAME GAME
The use of two timeouts on an unsuccessful challenge was a significant spot in the loss to the Steelers, as the Browns had to hurry on the final drive and settle for a 52-yard field-goal attempt that fell a couple of yards short.
There`s plenty of blame to go around for the timeout debacle, but coach Romeo Crennel is at the bottom of the list.
The person on the sideline (defensive coordinator Todd Grantham?) who signaled Leon Williams to call a timeout on the field deserves the most blame. The guilty party wanted time to look at the replays of Heath Miller`s touchdown catch, but the thinking is flawed. You`re better off just challenging, which would only cost one timeout.
The next level of blame falls on T.J. McCreight, Crennel`s eyes in the pressbox. Crennel has no television to watch, so he must trust his adviser, who suggested a challenge.
Crennel did have his issues. He could`ve reacted immediately after the timeout was called, dropped the challenge flag and hoped the referee honored the challenge. As the head coach, it`s also his responsibility to control the sideline. No one else should be signaling for a timeout if Crennel doesn`t want one – and that`s how the problem started.

QUICK HITS
Crennel was animated on the sideline after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scrambled for a first down in the second quarter. Crennel screamed in the direction of Grantham, as if the game plan was designed to prevent scrambles. The yell didn`t work, as Roethlisberger`s scrambles burned the Browns twice in the fourth quarter.
** The guy feeling the heat was linebacker Willie McGinest. On Roethlisberger`s 30-yard touchdown and late 10-yard run – both on third down – McGinest was the “spy” assigned to stop the scramble. He let himself get blocked on the touchdown and missed a tackle on the other. McGinest, 35, looked old and slow.
** The Browns missed D`Qwell Jackson (ankle) on those plays. If he`s healthy, the Browns could`ve used Leon Williams to spy, just as they did successfully last year vs. Atlanta`s Michael Vick.
** The Browns entered the game with just seven sacks in eight games. They added four in Pittsburgh. The defense is still a weakness, but the defensive line and outside linebacker Antwan Peek showed signs of life.
** For the first time since the Browns returned – and probably longer – Cleveland has a better offensive line than the Steelers. The Steelers allowed four sacks and didn`t dominate a bad Browns run defense.
** Rookie cornerback Eric Wright gets better every week. He broke up a touchdown pass to Hines Ward, had a sack and made 10 tackles on the outside.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.